This is the second in the series of three interviews I did for a recent essay. In this one, Lucy Kimbell talks about her project Audit:
“Audit is the result of conducting a personal poll in which Lucy Kimbell asks – “What am I worth?” Combining techniques from business analysis and other disciplines, this book uses material gathered from a specially constructed questionnaire to measure a broad range of values about the artist.”
[from the publisher Bookworks website]
Matt Locke: Are there any questions about yourself you refrained from including in Audit? If so, what were they, and why?
Lucy Kimbell: Yes, loads, things that I wanted to keep inside my public-private boundary mostly for reasons of fear – not wanting to expose myself. The book is not actually about me but about the interface between me and a group of other people who know me in some way, and the process of finding out things.
ML: How did you choose who to send it to? Was this an empirical or an emotional
LK: Selecting respondents was partly about who I thought would respond, based on the nature of their relationship to me; partly circumstance and an instant ‘Hey, I’m doing this project…I wonder if you’d consider….’ It was sometimes emotional, sometimes pragmatic, sometimes me being a chancer. This did include people I think don’t like me or find me difficult. and vice versa. Sometimes I gave it to people I had recently met professionally and they seemed to find it easiest to fill in my form.
ML: Did you have an interaction model in mind for the contributors? – did they all see the final book, or did their participation end with the questionnaire?
LK: No one saw the final book except for me, the publisher and designers until it was ready. My interaction model involved respondents filling in the form and sometimes my reminding them to fill it in and send it back, or hassling them a few times, or begging. It also involved slight shifts in the perception of each of us towards each other as a result of the interaction I had initiated. These shifts are alluded to and documented in my notes in the book.
Some of the contributors have seen the final book and mostly they like it, or don’t reveal their real thoughts or feelings. Without exception, on the occasions I gave the book to them in person, they all flicked through the pages looking for any recognisable reference to themselves.
ML: Did anyone expect the project to continue in some form after the publication of the book (eg be updated annually, or lead to more intimate (!) interactions?)
LK: No. But I’d like to set up a lovely graphical page on my site to display feedback to the book.
ML: Has the project changed any of the relationships that it measured?
LK: Yes, all of them in some way. In the same way that any feedback and observation changes everything.
ML: Has the project changed any aspect of your opinion of yourself, or self-esteem?
LK: Yes. I’d rather not say how.
ML: What kind of response have you had to this work ‘as an artwork’? Has it been reviewed/criticised at all?
LK: I’ve had very, very positive feedback from academics and writers including some well known names. In particular sociologists love it. But nothing from the art press that I have seen. Some of the audit form pages were reprinted in Tank magazine.
ML: What other responses have you had to the work? Are these more or less valid to you than its status as a piece of art?
LK: Who decides its status as a piece of art? Sure, it was commissioned as an artist’s book by an established art publisher and I refer to myself as an artist on the blurb on the back. But if ithe book has no or little currency among artists, curators and critics I do have to question its status as a piece of art. It may or not make a difference that I thought of it as a book all the way along. It has to work as a book, in relation to other books, as well as to what art does or can do. I welcome all interesting and considered responses, and particularly the ones that lead to a stimulating conversation.